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The Family Stone

the-family-stone

Image credit: The Family Stone, 2005

It happened again this year-  I found myself getting sucked down the Hallmark Christmas movie wormhole. I tell myself I’ll just watch this one about a single mom who has sworn off men but then meets the love of her life working at a soup kitchen (it’s always a soup kitchen), until 6 hours later I’m wrapped up in a blanket cocoon, cookie crumbs everywhere, weeping as fake snow falls around yet another happy couple in chunky sweaters (it’s always a chunky sweater). Clearly, I’m in need of something to wean me off of this TV movie crack. To that end, I’ll be watching The Family Stone (DVD/Download). It’s got the lighthearted romance I crave, mixed with the gravitas of a cancer-subplot that tugs at the heartstrings. But also, it includes some intelligent conversations about world cultures and gay rights. I like to think of this one as Hallmark for the liberal elite.

The Family Stone stars Sarah Jessica Parker as an uptight career gal who is brought home to meet her boyfriend’s family at Christmas.  From the NPR-tote bag-carrying little sister played by Rachel McAdams, to the funky jewelry/Coldwater Creek-wearing mom played by Diane Keaton, The Family Stone is full of lofty ideals and snarky judgement. To be fair, Parker’s character says some pretty abominable things when she gets nervous and backed into a corner, but still- tough crowd. Luckily Luke Wilson is around to lighten up the mood, as well as Craig T. Nelson in his typical gentle giant patriarch role. There are some fun moments where SJP finally lets her “freak flag fly”, but then- cancer (it’s always cancer).

The house in this film is meant to evoke all the warm fuzzies.  It’s messy, full of love, and big enough for a crowd.   And what is the perfect thing to drink at a New England holiday gathering?  Pumpkin Spice Lattes of course! I’m making mine a little boozy because family get-togethers can be rough. While watching The Family Stone, I recommend drinking a Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Spiked Pumpkin Spice Latte

5 cups strong brewed coffee

3 cups milk

½ cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup Bourbon

½ cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

¼ cup canned pure pumpkin

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Whipped cream topping

In a slow cooker, mix all ingredients except the whipped cream topping. Stir with a whisk until well combined. Cover and cook on High setting 2 hours, stirring once after an hour. Serve in mugs, and top with whipped cream and additional pumpkin pie spice.

spiked-psl

This would be a great drink to serve on Christmas morning when you’re opening gifts and settling in for a lazy day with food and family.  Or, you could be like me and make a whole pot for yourself, not realizing until you’re 3 Hallmark movies in that you’ve consumed a week’s worth of heavy cream and alcohol.  Whatever works for you and yours.  Cheers!

Old School

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old-school

Image credit:  Old School, 2003

I really shouldn’t like this week’s film as much as I do. Old School (DVD/Download) is, on the surface, a raucous comedy that should probably appeal to the lowest common denominator of frat-bros. But somehow, it still has me in stitches. Chalk it up to the surprisingly nuanced comedy of Will Ferrell, or perhaps just that one Graduate-throwback scene in the swimming pool. Whatever it is, it was enough to make me want to see this movie twice in the theater when it was released, and laugh my (earmuffs) ass off each time.

Although much of the action centers around three adult friends who decide to start a fraternity open to all ages, what always gets me are the simple jokes about real 30-something life. I mean, haven’t we all had a nice little Saturday involving Home Depot and Bed Bath ‘n Beyond? Or had to censor ourselves around small children? Or suffered through drunken wedding toasts? The more broadly comedic scenes involving old man Blue and KY wrestling matches may get more laughs, but for me, it’s the believable situations of couples counseling and children’s birthday parties that elevate the film to a higher standard.

Although this is certainly a beer-centric movie (and by all means, if you have a favorite brew from your college days, drink up), I’d like to make a drink for the ladies. For people who’ve seen the movie, you’ll know why I’m using vegetables in my cocktail. For people who haven’t, well, get ready for ladies night. While watching Old School, I recommend drinking a Cucumber Gimlet.  (Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!!)

Cucumber Gimlet

3 thin slices cucumber (plus 1 more for garnish)

1 sprig rosemary leaves (removed from stem)

4 oz Plymouth gin

1.5 oz fresh lime juice

1/2 oz simple syrup

Muddle cumber and rosemary together with simple syrup at the bottom of a shaker. Add gin and lime juice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a cucumber slice.

Cucumber Gimlet

I don’t know that I have a strong desire to relive my college days like the guys in this film (sadly, it would probably involve Easy Mac and an empty studio apartment), but the very act of watching Old School does it for me. As I’ve mentioned, I saw it twice in the theater, both times with good friends and lots of laughs. Isn’t that was college was really about anyway?  Cheers!

The Royal Tenenbaums

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Image Credit Touchtone Pictures 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums

Image Credit Touchtone Pictures 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums

A recent screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel has inspired me this week to revisit my favorite Wes Anderson film, The Royal Tenenbaums (DVD/Download). Of course I love any film by this director who has such a keen eye for style, but my personal favorite is still this 2001 ode to dysfunctional families and Nico. It’s quirky, it’s stylish, and it’s heartfelt (I dare anyone not to feel saddened to their core as Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle in the Hay’ frames a character’s suicide attempt), but it’s also delightfully funny in other moments. With The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson has created a world that seems so real that I feel like I could just put on a Lacoste polo dress and aviator sunglasses and step right in.

This film tells the story of the wealthy Tenenbaum family and the struggle of the patriarch Royal to bring them back together. Gene Hackman does a phenomenal job of playing the hilarious and conniving Royal, and Anjelica Huston brings an unexpected softness to the part of his estranged wife Etheline. Their three children are played by Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, and Ben Stiller, and all three are former child prodigies who have grown up to be adult messes. Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson round out the cast, along with the sadly now-deceased Kumar Pallana (or Pagoda as I’ll always think of him). Of course the sets and costumes are phenomenal, like a 1970’s dollhouse come to life. There are the typical Wes Anderson quirks, like a pet hawk named Mordecai, and Dalmatian mice, and of course the soundtrack is perfect in every way. A mix of The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Paul Simon, and a plucky orchestral score, the music of The Royal Tenenbaums always makes me feel like I’ve just raided the record collection of a very cool relative.

For my cocktail pairing, I wanted to find something that seemed classic yet eccentric, sort of like the characters in this film. I scoured my bar to come up with a list of ingredients that would be off-putting on their own, yet when brought together would make a wonderful union. I call this week’s concoction the Tenenbaum Toast.

 

1 ½ oz Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka
½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz Key Lime Juice
1 oz Club Soda
1 tsp Grenadine

Fill a champagne flute or small glass (the more unusual the better!) with crushed ice. Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into prepared glass and top with club soda and grenadine. Dalmatian straw optional.

 

tenenbaum's-toast
The pink color of this drink is meant to match that beautiful “Wes Anderson Pink” (as I like to call it) that covers the walls of the Tenenbaum house, as well as much of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I like to think that Margot Tenenbaum would enjoy one of these in the bathtub with her clandestine vintage cigarettes, as her old television teeters perilously close to the water. So as Wes Anderson is showered with accolades for his latest film, I urge you to take the time to re-discover one of his older works with a strange and wonderful cocktail. If you want to go all out, layer on the eye liner and watch with a bored expression. Cheers!